Netanyahu Will Most Likely Attend Bolsonaro's Inauguration in Brazil, Israeli Official Says

Netanyahu would be the first Israeli prime minister ever to visit the Latin American country

Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro waves to supporters after casting his vote, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October 28, 2018.
\ RICARDO MORAES/ REUTERS

An Israeli official said Wednesday that it is "highly probable" Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will attend the inauguration of Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro on January 1. 

Brazilian newspaper Folha reported Tuesday that Netanyahu would attend the event. If Netanyahu indeed travels to Brazil, he will be the first Israeli prime minister to ever visit the country.

Netanyahu toured Latin America in 2017 but held off on visiting Brazil because he was waiting for the elections, the report said.

>> Brazil – and its Jewish community – battle for the soul of Latin America’s biggest democracy

Netanyahu spoke with Bolsonaro on the phone Monday and congratulated him on winning the election. He also invited Bolsonaro to visit Israel.

"I am confident that your election will lead to a great friendship between the two peoples and to the strengthening of ties between Brazil and Israel," Netanyahu told Bolsonaro, according to a statement released by the Prime Minister's Office. "We await your visit to Israel," Netanyahu added.

A senior diplomatic source said that as far as Israel is concerned, "Brazil will now be colored in blue and white," referring to the colors of the Israeli flag.

In August, Bolsonaro announced that, if elected, he will close the Palestinian embassy in Brasilia and move the Brazilian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Bolsonaro is a strong admirer and supporter of Israel. 

Bolsonaro won 55 percent of the vote Sunday. His victory moved Brazil, the world's fourth-largest democracy, sharply to the right after four consecutive elections in which candidates from the left-leaning Workers' Party won.

Like other right-leaning leaders who have risen to power around the globe, Bolsonaro built his popularity on a mixture of tough talk and hardline positions. And, like many, he is sure to face stiff pushback from groups concerned that his strong views will lead to policies that threaten democratic institutions.

Bolsonaro spent much of the campaign exploiting divisions, taking to Twitter to lambaste the rival Workers' Party as unethical and dangerous. In recent weeks, Brazilians were bombarded with WhatsApp messages that condemned Workers' Party candidate Fernando Haddad, often making outrageous claims.

Bolsonaro's candidacy raised serious concerns that he would roll back civil rights and weaken institutions in what remains a young democracy. He has frequently disparaged women, gays and blacks, and said he would name military men to his cabinet.